Sheepshead, Dewey high schools will return in September, teachers claim

They're going to need a bigger sign: John Dewey High School was given a new, longer name last week, the first step towards a major education overhaul.

The names outside Sheepshead Bay and John Dewey high schools may be the different this September, but everything else will remain the same, say union officials who have successfully shot down the city’s plan to sack half the teachers from each embattled school.

Both schools were closed in June so they could be enrolled in a federally-funded turnaround program with a new name and staff, but the United Federation of Teachers sued, claiming that the city was violating its contract with the union.

Court-appointed arbiter Scott Buckheit agreed, determining that the United Federation of Teachers contract with the city prohibits the Department of Education from entering into any program that called for the immediate dismissal of half of the staff from each school.

The decision prevented the city from joining the turnaround program. If the Department of Education was able to enroll, each school in the program would have $1.5 million in federal funds.

The Department of Education said it would appeal the decision, but administrators at Sheepshead Bay High School said that they didn’t expect anything about the school — except its name — to change when we contacted them Monday.

Shortly after the closures were announced, the city rechristened John Dewey High School the Shorefront High School of Arts and Sciences at John Dewey Campus. Sheepshead Bay High School was relabeled the Academy of Career Exploration of Sheepshead Bay.

The city put Dewey and Sheepshead into the program after years of academic decline: Dewey received a C and Sheepshead earned a D on the Department of Education’s most recent report cards.

Despite the poor grades, parents opposed the closures, with Dewey students staging a number of walkouts in protest.

The United Federation of Teachers applauded Buckheit’s decision, saying that it proved that “the centerpiece of the Department of Education’s school improvement strategy — closing struggling schools — does not work.”

Yet school’s Chancellor Dennis Walcott told WOR radio that Buckheit’s decision did nothing to help students.

“This ruling pushes these schools back and most importantly will hurt our students in the long run,” Walcott said.

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